Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Green Gathering

It's been a while since our last blog post, and we've been very busy since then. 3 festivals a big birthday bash, job prospects and job offers. Not to mention some pedalling in between.

Our first event, alluded to in our last blog post was the Green Gathering, just outside Chepstow in South Wales. So a relatively close event... but unfortunately pulling a trailer around in Wales is never easy and there were many hills along the way. Having said that, about half of the route follows the river Wye, which is always a joy, especially for a lover of trees and woodlands such as myself. I was a little wary at first of the fact that the festival was being held on the racecourse. I had expected a flat area, with the only features being white barriers and the viewing stands. In fact the racecourse gives way to rolling parkland and a derelict stately home, and this was where the festival was held - a beautiful and enormous site. Unfortunately for the organisers, the number of festival goers didn't match the size of the site, and it was populated largely by crew. This made for a fun festival but did leave the Green Gathering out of pocket.

Pedallers Kitchen had a good festival though, with a nice pitch in the campaigns area, and all the food we cooked was eaten with relish.

We were blessed with weather that was... at least changeable.Lots of short showers followed by bright sunshine. This resulted in an endless show of epic skies and plenty of double rainbows.

For us, probably the most interesting part of the festival was a talk and demonstration from Ed Revill of Swansea Biochar. This was a fascinating hour during which he turned upside down perceived ideas about charcoal use and production and exposed the folly of current methods, gave a great critical rant against modern agricultural practises ("using soil as a substrate for hydroponic growing") and gave a comprehensive introduction to wood gasifer and biochar producing stoves and the use of biochar in agriculture. He had a good selection of these stoves on display including his own hybrid creation, crossing a rocket stove and a biochar producing Anila stove.
Ed Revill's hybrid Rocket/Anila stove

To illustrate his points, Ed had a wood gasifier stove with a vented cast iron hotplate to create a BBQ, that instead of using charcoal to cook, produced charcoal at the end of cooking. This was accomplished by burning off the toxic wood gases that during conventional charcoal production are just sent straight up into the atmosphere. The charcoal in the form of biochar is then buried in the ground to act as a home for mycorrhizzal fungi, a sponge for keeping water and nutrients in the soil and a way of sequestering carbon (that's the theory anyway). All this was absolutely fascinating and all those who attended seemed rapt. We left the talk with the intention of at some point incorporating a wood gasifier into Pedallers Kitchen or our lives in general, and with lots of new ideas to further research. The ideas behind wood gasifier stoves and biochar are too much for me to go into in more detail here, but I recommend that readers look into them both.

Another stall at the festival that grabbed my attention was this trailer. Clad in scraps of inner tube and aluminium and with a living roof.

All in all a really lovely and interesting event. I leave you with this photo, the night time scene from our stall.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Our Garden, thou art a haven...

We're feeling proud this week, as at Green Gathering this weekend we'll be serving some of our very own home grown veggies!
We have been lucky to have expert advice on hand from my parents. Its been amazing to watch the space evolve and grow over the last 5 months, how fast nature is at getting to work....

Our little plot - part of the reclamation of unused land at Monmouth House
 This is after we'd planted 2 rows of Potato's, new potato's Kestrel and Premier, and some of Dad's estima's (second early) from last year. We were in the process of preparing the ground for the onions, they need a fine till so some hours were spent pulling out roots (of which there were many, as just a few months earlier this had been an overgrown hedge!) and hoeing the soil.
March - Watering our onions and garlic

We grew our onions from Onion Sets
Late June - harvesting 'Premier' new potato's

Our patch all grown up!

A sea of greens
What at big change! Despite the difficult season, and the slugs getting all but one of the beans, we have had a reasonable crop of Potato's, onions, garlic and cabbage, and we'll be harvesting sweetcorn in a few weeks.  

On the difficult season topic, things really are all a bit messed up. We defiantly need to remember to listen to mother nature when she's giving us a nudge......

Thursday, 5 July 2012


Sunrise Celebration, our first official, public event as Pedallers Kitchen went beautifully. It was a proper, thorough test of our set-up and we passed in most regards. It was a hard, 130 mile slog to get there, and hitch, trailer and all survived with barely a rattle.

Towards Glastonbury Tor

Although we arrived on Wednesday, most of the other crafty folks in our area had arrived and set up, so due to a mix up with the site map, there were no real pitches left. Fortunately our slimline nature allowed us to slip onto a small strip on the drag between the main field and camping. This gave us a prime position for preaching, peddling and promoting our low impact cooking techniques.

It was great for us, having spent months building and preparing everything, to have it all validated by people showing a real interest in the project, technology and all the rest. We had spent a lot of time in the preceding months explaining this bizarre concept to people, but actually having it with us changed everything and allowed us to really illustrate the concepts we had been talking about.

On the Wednesday that we arrived, the sun was shining upon us. Fortunately, however, the weather was not going to let us off without properly tested us and our equipment... so for the rest of the time the sky rained and the wind howled. Unsurprisingly, our awning, which although colourful and resplendent, is somewhat reminiscent of a kite, failed to withstand the elements, as one by one the eyelets gave way and the canvas slid down the poles.

Fortunately with the help of our neighbouring leather workers and some gaffa tape, we were able to repair it, but it had to remain down for Saturday due to the risk of further damage. So we spent the day cooking in a rainy gale, with no protection.

But we did surprisingly well. The trailer let in very little water and the rocket stove continued to function well despite burning damp wood and being rained upon. Cooking on an open fire in these conditions would have been nigh-on impossible, so the rocket stove really showed its worth. It burned almost constantly throughout the four days, and used amazingly little wood.

We were lucky enough to be joined by another Pedaller - Harry Woolner, who did a sterling job working along side us. We were also joined by many other colourful friends throughout the days, who gave us great encouragement, support and music.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Cycling into the Sunrise

Day 1 Mileage 40

We left South Wales in high spirits, despite the threat of rain (which came) a beautiful but tough start throughhilly Monmouthshire. We were off to Sunrise Celebration, where we will be showcasing our kitchens technology and running workshops.

Passing Tintern Abbey

 We arrived at our nights destination after 7 hours cycling, not bad concidering the trailer weighs about 65kg's! Looking like drowned rats on arrival, we dried by the fire and refuled,we were warmly hosted by my Aunty and Uncle. The next day the weather was looking a little better, we set of knowing we had a long day, at least 60 miles to go.

Day 2 60 Miles

Puncture repair
 Unfortunatly around the avonmouth area we took the cycle toute through little paths linking industrial estates, where lots of strimming had been freshly...we walked out bikes but couldn't keep the weight of the trailer from the ground so unfortunatly we got a puncture.

You can't actually read it, but on the somerest motorway behind the sign read 'WARNING, delays on the M25'
Not on national cycle route 26!

12 hours later, we arrived at our resting place!
2 of the most physically challenging days of our lives, but we were still in one piece and ready to get going to Sunrise. Hope to see soon of you there! 

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

We have a tent!

Our remade awning

After months of working on the project, things are really taking shape. We have been cooking up some dinners for the family in the garden these last weeks. We were pleased to successfully erect our 'remade' awning just a few days ago. 

Garden cookery
After Aprils rain, realising we might just need a rain cover, we rummaged around and were lucky enough to find an old, colourful, A-frame tent, which had belonged to the village playing field association in Pete's village. Having just invested in new tents, this was surplus to requirements - lucky us!

We wanted to lose some of it's weight, but retain enough shelter to protect us in poor weather (but probably not a big storm...)  There were grand plans of having this as our main tent, and being able to pack it down for night...but in the end, these were a little ambitious and we settled for the design shown above, by removing the front entirely, reducing the sides to triangles and using longer poles to give us some head room.

This weekend we went for some music and city fun in Bristol...taking in 'Vegfest' a free food and music event down by the harbour. We made a lucky observation, the stalls had their names up high - to be seen over the crowd, so i'm now sewing us a banner to go along the top! 

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Pedalling to Pick up Sticks

Trip Mileage: 119miles.

Through wind and rain, and thankfully some sun, the Pedallers made it up to our first event of the season 'Pick up Sticks'. A wondrous gathering of friendly, hard-working individuals coming together to live, learn, cook, eat, play and be together at the newly re-established Earthworm Housing Co-Op, Leintwardine, Herefordshire.


For us it was an opportunity to test the road worthiness of the trailer, the stamina of our legs and to start share our project with people in REAL life (i.e. not through this blog..) We can now safely say that the trailer is road worthy, and kept everything (almost) dry despite a full day cycling through the rain. Our mental strength was tested somewhat on that wet second day on discovering we had taken the wrong road out of Hereford, adding over 10 miles to the journey, but we managed to keep up our spirits, singing through the rain till we reached our destination. Although it was hard going, we now know it is totally possibly to travel by bike and still arrive with the kitchen sink!

We'd like to say thank you to our Hereford hosts, whose hospitality enabled us to make the journey.

We couldn't have picked a better first trip, to share a weekend with people, some unknown at first, and some old friends, where the focus is on balance between more than one element; of fun, and work and play. So often our lives are divided, different parts serving different roles. work = money, party = fun.
The focus of the weekend was to share work on the grounds of the house, knowledge and skills whilst living, playing and eating communally.  Pedallers Kitchen contributed to the communal cooking, firing up a rocket stove oven which hadn't been used in a while to make Cake and sour-dough bread, giving us a crash course in full time rocket stove cooking. The outdoor kitchen at earthworm boasts the MOTHER of all rocket stoves...which did the majority of the cooking for the weekend.
Rocket StoveTASTic!
 We look forward to Pick up Sticks take 2!

Monday, 7 May 2012

The Christening

We have just returned from taking the loaded trailer, with all the kitchen bits, on its first outing on the road. No problems... fortunately, because we set off to our first proper event tommorow - Pick Up Sticks. A 60 mile cycle. Here's some photos from todays little jaunt.

Swapping the trailer between bikes (and our new logo)